I've been meaning to write about our excursion to Santa Barbara on Wednesday. G had been on an overnight train trip before, as well as a shorter one, but she was three and a half the first time and six the second time, so she didn't remember either trip and was intrigued by the idea. Intrigued enough, in fact, that she was willing to forgo her preferred vacation schedule of sleeping in until 10 or 11 and get up at dawn to catch the train.
It was cold on the platform at 7:30 a.m.
Chilly mist and trees through the train window. See that bit of G's book in the lower right-hand corner? It won't be the last time you see it.
The ride to Santa Barbara takes just under four hours. For the last hour(ish), you're right beside the ocean.
We got off the train at about 11:30 in the morning and walked down to the waterfront, where we ate pizza and waited for the misty drizzle to stop. When it was over, we walked to the end of Stearns Wharf, admired the view, and watched a lone seal swimming in the ocean. On the sand, we also saw one of the more original approaches to panhandling I've ever encountered:
The sign propped against the table says "Just Plain Hungry" and the one below the donation bowl says "Make a Wish," inviting passersby to throw money off the pier. The creator of this diorama was about 10 yards away, working on an amazingly good sand sculpture of a mermaid. I gave him a dollar for creativity.
Next, we took the electric shuttle up to the top of State Street and walked down, stopping in various shops along the way. This photo was right outside Borders, where G used some of her Christmas money to buy the next three books in the series she was reading.
This was actually a bit of a problem, because all she wanted to do was read. Every time I turned around, she'd sat down somewhere and started reading again. We finally found a coffee shop and spent a long time there, having tea and cocoa and croissants, so she could get some reading in. They had a really cool machine that was roasting the coffee beans right out in the open, and I made her put down her book for two minutes to go and look at it. She wasn't impressed.
Eventually we made our way back to the train station to wait for the train home. The station was built in 1905 and had some interesting bits in it, including this random fireplace located in the women's restroom, which I imagine was probably in the original station and got built around during a renovation. There was a defunct iron radiator to the right of it, providing train travelers of the past with options for keeping warm.
We'd had a nonstop train on the way up, but coming home we had to change trains at Union Station in Los Angeles. G had finished her book and started the second one in the series at that point, and she spent our 45 minutes there leaning against a pillar, oblivious to the Art Deco architecture all around her, as she read on. I was exactly like this as a kid, so I empathize, but at the same time, I now know why my parents were always nagging me to "take your nose out of that book and look at [the Lincoln Memorial/the Empire State Building/those skydiving nuns]."
Anyway, it was a pleasant day, despite G being distracted most of the time. I think if we were to go again, I'd want to stay at a hotel - there are some nice-looking ones on State Street - and have more time to see some of the other sights, including the museums and the mission. G said she'd be up for that, so perhaps we'll try a weekend trip later in the year.